Out & About With: Teslacon VI

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“Creativity is one of the greatest forms of generosity.” – Mark Fairbanks

Every year about this time, I enjoy reflecting on another wonderful Teslacon weekend with my steampunk family. There are many reasons why steampunk is unique to me among all forms of fandom—but perhaps the greatest among them is this:

Steampunks are among the most generous people I know.

Nowhere is this more evident than Teslacon.


Friday’s costume: Hand-dyed, handmade Mexican circle skirt from upcycled bedsheets; re-covered corset from Goodwill; hand-dyed shirt also from Goodwill; hat upcycled from a thrift source and decorated with an unknown artist’s gear-and-feather headpiece; leather pouch by Elysium Armory. Photo by Real Time Portrait Studio.

Let’s start with the volunteers. Teslacon is an affordable convention as conventions go (general tickets for the weekend run $60-$65) staffed almost entirely by volunteers. I know many of these people. They give their blood, sweat and tears all year to ensure that 1500 exuberant steampunks literally of all ages, from newborns to advanced senior citizens, can gather for this weekend of creativity, imagination and immersion storytelling.

As a person who has run events in the past, I know how hard it is to gather a group of imaginative people under a single banner—let alone to see the same volunteer faces come back year after year.

I walked the halls of Teslacon this year, waving to person after person I personally know. The costume might have changed (from Journey to the Center of the Earth last year to Wild Wild West this year), but they’re still wearing that Staff badge, and they’re still ready to help.

That is the generosity of Steampunk.


Saturday’s “Yellow Rose of Texas” Ballgown: Upcycled bed sheet skirt, hand-dyed with Bengala; cheerleading bustier from Goodwill, dye to match; all trim and shoulder throw repurposed from my 2014 Teslacon ball gown bustle; headpiece made by me from items in my “junque box;” Photo by Real Time Portrait Studio.

We could speak also of the fans themselves. Nearly everyone who attends the convention comes dressed in a steampunk costume of some variety.

Some costumes have been custom-made by one of the many steampunk designers who also attend the con. Others have been thrifted or sewn from scratch. But whatever the level of craftsmanship, the final outcome is whimsical and always worth looking at.

There’s even an “Iron Tailor” competition for creating cobbled-together costumes AT the convention!

As I walked around Teslacon this year, I realized that each attendee shows up not only to enjoy the con, but to give back in enjoyment through their costuming.

A few people I know have suggested to me that spending all this time on costuming for a convention is a “waste of energy” or a “bad use of time” in a world full of sorrow and hurt.

But I see it a different way.

So many fans come to Teslacon to get away from the sorrow and hurt in their lives. The joy we experience at con is, I suspect, in no small part due to expressing our own creativity through costuming, and drinking at the wellspring of others’.

I “feed” my creativity all year on the beauty and inspiration I receive from this weekend. This year, I even received small gifts of decoration and even fabric from other steampunks who stopped me and said, “Hey, I have something I don’t need anymore for my costume. I think it might look great on yours!”

Seen through this lens, the countless hours of labor and love that go into a Teslacon costume is an act of the highest generosity.



Saturday’s “Pony Express” Costume: Skirt and jacket upcycled; overskirt sewn by me from Goodwill fabric; bustle by an unknown steampunk artist; headpiece by Deborah Olson Milliner; “steampunk pony” sourced from Goodwill and decked with goggles from scraps of letter; mailbag sewn from bargain bin at Goodwill and painted with acrylic paint; letter jewelry hand-made by me from paper, acrylic paint and Mod-Podge; Photo by Real Time Portrait Studio.

Finally, the generosity of Teslacon can be seen not just in the staff or the costuming of the patrons, but in the relational bonds formed. I’ve never attended another con where I know so many people personally.

The biggest challenge I face at Teslacon is how to get to some panels or other events when I have so much visiting to do in the Tearoom! Some friends I never get to see any other time, and we stay in touch on Facebook.

When I entered the steampunk work three years ago, I had no idea what to expect. I remember being afraid I would be a perpetual outsider, as I often am in other communities, or that people would look down on me because at the time, I didn’t have a lot of crafty skill sets. But nothing could have been further from the truth.

As one of my steampunk friends reminded me this year at con, I’ve come a long way since then. I’ve learned to knit, and spin, and sew, and dye, and pick up drawing again. The courage to try all of those wonderful horizon-expanding things has come largely from the encouragement and example of steampunk friends.

“There are two types of con-goers: the kind who want to be entertained, and the kind who want to have fun. Teslacon attracts the latter.” – Bridget Sharon

When we show up to con, we don’t show up primarily to have the show “brought” to us. We show up to make the con fun for ourselves and everyone else. I’m guessing most of us don’t even fully fathom the impact that the collective community experience (and our individual presence within it) has on those we interact with throughout the weekend.


Sunday’s Cowgirl Costume: Shirt, corset and underskirt sourced from Goodwill; overskirt sewn by me from sale fabric; bustle by unknown steampunk artist; arm cuffs spun, dyed and knitted by me with scrap leather accents and exchangeable fabric ruffles; purple flower pin by me; hat from Goodwill with trim by me; bottle rack by me from scrap leather; leather pouch by Elysium Armory.

Overall, I’d have to agree with Mark Fairbanks. Creativity is one of the greatest forms of generosity. If this is true, then there’s no place more generous than Teslacon.

As one six-year-old attendee told his mother, “Mom, steampunk has inspired my heart.”

Thank you, Eric Larson and team, for taking us to Texas this year. Thank you, wonderful fellow attendees for inspiring a full heart.

And thank you, steampunk, for truly inspiring our hearts—and bringing out the generosity in all of us.

*  *  *

What’s your favorite steampunk or Teslacon memory?
Please share it in the comments below!

Enjoy wrap-ups from Teslacon IV and Teslacon V.

2 thoughts on “Out & About With: Teslacon VI

  1. While I love many, many things about Teslacon, I always try to find to some time to simply sit in a hallway and watch the parade go by. All these creative people! All this imagination! Was that a– yes, it was! Oh my goodness, did you see that! And occasionally someone tapping your elbow just to say, “I love your hat,” or “where did you find that FABRIC?” We come together over our mutual art — we literally MAKE our own entertainment. It’s nectar to the soul.

    Liked by 1 person

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